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Entries in Perspective (6)

Thursday
Oct262017

When Tempted: Do Something Else!

In this Choices UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson explains how a simple weight loss tip helped her get a grip on habitual overeating and a lot of other addictions!

Maybe it will help you. . .

It was ridiculously simple. I was talking with the Lord about my food program, and I almost missed a quiet "suggestion."

The truth is, I wasn't praying as much as COMPLAINING.

  • "Lord, I can't do this."
  • "Lord, I think about chocolate all the time."
  • "Lord, I always want more, more, MORE!"

Somewhere in my complaint, my words turned more desperate.

"Lord ... HELP!"

And then I heard this little voice deep within my soul.

"Do something else."

"Do what?"

"Some... Thing... Else!"

"Like eating potato chips instead of chocolate?" (I wondered if the Voice was amused?)

"No. Do something else entirely. Switch your focus."

Though I'd been struggling for months, I instantly understood what "switch your focus" meant.

Stop focusing on food. Stop focusing on stuff. Stop focusing on getting "more" of everything.

Look elsewhere. Get busy elsewhere.

Anywhere but the refrigerator and the mall.

The more I thought about it, I knew there were three ways to re-focus my attention.

1. I needed to Focus on my faithful OVERCOMER.

Instead of focusing on how overwhelmed and powerless I felt, I could gaze on the One who died to give me hope and victory over my flesh.

The first and best things I can do when tempted is to "watch and pray" (Matthew 26:41) and read or quote (memorized) scripture that applies to my temptation (Psalm 119:11).

The enemy would like me to receive and live by DEVILISH LIES: You can't win ... It's hopeless ... You're doomed to failure ... You're too weak, etc.

The truth of scripture is, "...walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh" ... "Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires" (Galatians 5:16; Romans 13:14)

Yet there is an element of truth in one of Satan's lies. I AM too weak!

Without the Lord, I can do nothing (John 15:5), but with Him, there is victory, because nothing is impossible with the Lord (Matthew 19:26). My Faithful Overcomer conquered Satan and sin, and lived a sinless life. I can be victorious because I am hidden in Him and can live by faith in Him (Colossians 3:3; Galatians 2:20). 

I don't need to make "provision" for my flesh (Romans 13:14), but rather, I can "clothe myself" with Christ and consider some ways I might make "provision" to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in changing me—to "put off" some things that belong to my old sinful life and "put on" new things that align with a renewed mind and heart (Ephesians 4:22-24; Romans 12:1-2).

And that's where I move from grounding in theology to practical outworkings.

2. I needed to Focus on freeing OPTIONS.

Instead of focusing on all the things I CAN'T have and do, I could dig a little deeper and hone in on positive, healthier, life-building choices.

Dig a little deeper? How?

  • I could LOOK for recipes that would nourish my body and not contribute to ill-being.
  • I could SEEK new ways to exercise that I actually enjoy.
  • I could FIGURE OUT how to restructure my personal spending and time management (with better stewardship of my mind, emotions, body and spirit in mind).
  • I could THINK ABOUT things that bring God glory and bring me God-blessed pleasure—things that don't burden me with guilt or negative consequences. (God's original design in giving us "appetites" was good; because He wants us us to honor and enjoy Him and His blessings.)

As a simple tool, I recently created a "Do Something Else" list with ideas to help me "get up and get busy." I use it to:

Get out of the pantry;

Get off the couch and stop stuffing my face; and

"Get" (understand) what is good for me (Philippians 4:8), and pursue those things with passion!

On my list (below, right) are simple things under four headings: HOME, HEART, HEALTH and HELP.

Some are quick five- or ten-minute distractions with benefits. Others might take a little longer, but believe me, that's good when the call of the flesh is loud and strong!

I included simple things like:

  • Sort Bob's (my husband's) sock drawer. 
  • Organize the spices.
  • Start a "giveaway box" (for my local help-the-homeless ministry).
  • Try on at least 10 clothing items and make a quick decision: keep, mend, give away, trash.
  • Memorize a scripture verse. (I'm working on Galatians 5:1 right now.)
  • Pull weeds out of my garden.
  • Take in the waist on my black slacks.
  • Dust my bookshelves.
  • Organize around my washing machine and dryer.
  • Look for a low-fat, low-sugar holiday cookie that actually tastes good.
  • Write my friend with cancer who isn't going to make it.
  • Wash out my dog's water bowl.
  • Put seed in the bird feeder.
  • Pray and search the scriptures over a pressing question.
  • Wash my brush and comb.

Your list willl be different than mine. But make the list.

Then you'll have a "GO-TO" list for when you're tempted to GO TO your favorite addiction. Or to return to whenever you're distracted from making wise, godly and healthy choices. (Strive for excellence, not perfection)

3. I needed to Focus on fresh OPPORTUNITIES.

Instead of always focusing on obstacles—which actually boils down to focusing on "me, myself and I," or what Satan uses to sidetrack me—I could instead envision opportunities to do what might bless others.

I could become more sensitive to the Spirit and allow the Lord to lead me into greater love, service, ministry and encouragement. I could lift up my eyes beyond my wants and my desires to others' needs.

And then, I could ACT!

We can't do everything to deal with the world's needs. But we can all do SOMETHING.

And it's best not to wait. We don't know what tomorrow may bring. Life is short. We need to get busy, gather our resources, and "occupy" until the Lord returns (Luke 19:13).

We need to redeem the time and buy up opportunities as they come (Ephesians 5:15-16)— especially when the Lord asks us to act. (Consider James 4:12-17.)

What is God prompting you to do?

Obey quickly. Completely. Joyfully.

Since I've altered my focus, my perspective has changed. My choices have changed.

Even my bathroom scale shows the difference "do something else" can make.

Which of the "focus points" might help you today; and what would be on your "Do Something Else" list?

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is a speaker and author, and the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices Today, LOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. She is a contracted researcher/reviewer for Revive Our Hearts and a writer at Crosswalk.com. She and her husband Bob live in Southern California and have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.

Thursday
Oct052017

Getting Needs Met ... or Not

Dianne Barker has a knack for pinpointing issues we all struggle with, and the biblical truth that helps. In this Perspective UPGRADE, she examines a question we may ask in the middle of stressful circumstances.

     

"Overwhelmed, I cried out to the Lord," Dianne said. 'What about my needs?'”

I (Dawn) believe the Lord understands our struggle. Humanly, Jesus had physical needs during His time on earth, and He looked to scriptures for strength. That's exactly where we need to go.

Dianne continues . . .

I went into marriage expecting my wonderful husband to meet all my needs and make me sublimely happy.

Our first few years were pretty much carefree. When I left a successful journalism career to be a stay-at-home mom, I had no regrets. Making a nest for my husband and our two young children brought me great joy. Meeting their needs had highest priority, although I carved out some time to continue writing.

Life has a way of piling stress upon stress.

As our children grew, we enjoyed the normal progression of family life: music lessons and recitals ... Little League and Scouts ... choral concerts and competitions.

We enjoyed our hectic life and managed the good stress.

Then heartbreaking stress caught up with us as our aging parents declined in health. I gladly poured out my life caring for them.

Increasing, daily challenges drained my time and energy, taking an emotional toll, and weariness sent me to the Lord.

“What about my needs? Doesn’t anybody care about my needs?”

He surprised me with an answer.

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

I’d always viewed that familiar promise as assurance he would meet my physical, financial, and spiritual needs. A gentle voice in my spirit said, “I will supply your emotional needs. That frees you to meet the needs of your family.”

It was a jaw-dropping moment.

The Lord continued encouraging my heart with these words: “…as your days, so shall your strength be” (Deuteronomy 33:25).

My circumstances didn’t change, only my perspective.

When you’re weary and feeling your needs aren’t getting met, consider having a conversation with yourself.

  • God placed me here—in this family, in these circumstances—on purpose. He thought I had something to contribute. He surely has a lot of confidence to entrust me with such a complicated assignment.
  • I feel inadequate, but I’ll never be stronger than I am right now because God is my strength. And he won’t be stronger tomorrow.
  • The One who engraved me on the palms of his hands (Isaiah 49:16) is fully able to supply all my needs. Knowing that, I needn’t depend on anyone else for this impossible provision.

Many years have passed since the Lord interrupted my pity party with an amazing promise. He met my needs and renewed my strength day by day, enabling me to pour out my life with joy, serving my precious family.

Circumstances are temporary. Our parents are in heaven and our children have left the nest. I look back on those challenging times with gratitude for the faithfulness of God.

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:28-31).

I’ve never regretted the decision to trust him to supply my needs. He’s surpassed my expectations. 

Who are you depending on to meet your needs?

Dianne Barker is a speaker, radio host and author of 11 books, including the best-selling Twice Pardoned. This post is adapted from I Don’t Chase the Garbage Truck Down the Street in My Bathrobe Anymore! Organizing for the Maximum Life. She’s a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Christian Authors Network, and Christian Women in Media Association. Visit www.diannebarker.com.)

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Engin_Akyurt, Pixabay.

Thursday
Jun292017

5 Ways to Set Yourself Up for Victories

Victories don't just happen. In this Victory UPGRADE, Dawn shares five ways to set yourself up for some fresh victories!

When I met Joni Eareckson Tada, I was overwhelmed with the sense that this woman is not a victim, in spite of her quadriplegia. She is a victor! Likewise, Nick Vujicic, a man without limbs, has the mindset and makes the choices that set him apart as a victor in Christ.

I can't tell you the times I've nearly wept, realizing how petty my struggles are compared to theirs. But the same truths that have enabled these victors to rise above their trials are available to me.

As Nick says, "If you can't get a miracle, become one."

I've always loved that exciting moment when runners "set up" in their lanes at the starting block to run a race. To be a victor, we need to intentionally set ourselves up for the victories we so desire.

Here are the five ways I'm learning to set myself up for fresh victories.

1. Set Your SPIRIT

The first thing to acknowledge is our utter incapability to fix ourselves.

Without Christ, we are lost and struggling sinners. But in Christ, the possibilities for change are endless! The Father is making believers like His Son through the power of the Holy Spirit!

To pursue victory, we must first set our spirit on the Spirit.

Knowing we are "crucified with Christ" and that now Christ lives in us, we determine to "live by faith in the Son of God." And how do we do that? We learn to "walk in the Spirit"—to keep in step with Him—so we will not gratify our fleshly desires. We "sow" to the Spirit if we want to cultivate a life of victory over sin.

We lose many battles because we forget our struggle is not a simple flesh-and-blood skirmish. It's a tough, spiritual war. We struggle against powerful forces of evil, and we must go to battle with spiritual, God-supplied weapons.

2. Set Your MIND

Paul told the Colossians to set their minds on "things that are above, not on things that are on earth."

A focus on eternity can help us make better decisions and live a more victorious life.

Sitting in a revival conference many years ago, the evangelist's words stirred my heart: "There are only two things you can take with you to heaven," he said. "Only two things pass from this world into eternity: the Word of God and human souls."

Those words greatly impacted my perspective and priorities. When life is boiled down to those two things, it's remarkable how some choices are simplified and others eliminated.

Christian victors have an eternal perspective.

David Ring, who has cerebral palsy, explains it this way: "I'm still in the oven. God's still in the kitchen, and God's still cooking on me. And when God is finished cooking on me, God is going to pull me out of the oven, and God's going to say, 'Well done, good and faithful servant.'"

David is an example of a believer whose perspective is being transformed by the "renewing" of his mind. Just as we are to walk in the Spirit, we're also to set our minds on the things of the Spirit.

A person's mindset colors responses to life's circumstances.

While we may legitimately be victims of others and need to learn new ways to respond to our pain, in many cases, our victimization comes from within. We may be labeling ourselves as victims as an excuse not to change, or to receive pity from others.

Our focus makes a huge difference. For instance,

  • Victims focus on losses, while victors realize the "gain" possible in tough circumstances.
  • Victims see people conspiring against them; but victors realize we are all sinners and we're likely to wound each other as we rub shoulders--so they learn to forgive and give grace.
  • Victims wear themselves out trying to achieve elusive approval and contentment. Victors have learned to live for an audience of One.

So set your mind on heaven and the things of the Spirit, and you'll escape a lot of "victimhood."

3. Set Your AFFECTIONS

It's not only the mind that needs setting. While charging his son Solomon to build the temple, King David told the leaders of Israel, "Now set your mind and heart to seek the LORD your God" (1 Chronicles 22:19a).

David, who had a heart for God, took time in the fields as a shepherd boy to develop his heart relationship with God; and God used these experiences to develop David's character and leadership skills. Though he made foolish choices in his later life, he always deeply honored and loved the Lord.

Jesus encouraged His disciples to set their affections when He said: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart...." It's a choice.

4. Set Your BODY

Along with setting our mind, Paul, in Rom. 12:1, appeals to believers to "present" their bodies to the Lord as "a living sacrifice." He also speaks of yielding our bodies as tools of righteousness. That's an intentional decision—to set our bodies before the Lord and allow Him to use us.

Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit and we are to honor God with our bodies, and bring Him glory with our actions in the body.

5. Set Your GOALS

When we have given God our spirit, mind, affections and body, we are ready to set some goals.

The Bible gives us a balanced view of goal-setting. We're to make plans, but to plan with humility and seeking God's wisdom and will.

When making any goals, be sure your priorities are biblical. Don't worry; seek and trust the Lord

We certainly don't honor God with laziness. He expects us to use His wisdom and be diligent so we be can be successful. That doesn't mean we can be presumptuous either! James says it's better to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that."

Set your goals, but know the Lord is sovereign and He may change your plans.

We live in a fallen world. We will not be perfect until heaven. But we can't make excuses and coast spiritually.

Intentional, biblical choices will encourage more and more victories!

So, are you all "set" for victories? Which of these "sets" needs a little tweaking today?

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is a speaker and author, and the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices Today, LOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. She is a contracted researcher/reviewer for Revive Our Hearts and a writer at Crosswalk.com. She and her husband Bob live in Southern California and have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Morguefile.

Tuesday
Apr072015

Look Up!

Ava Pennington is an author and speaker with a strong focus on the practical applications of God's Word. In this Attitude UPGRADE, she encourages us to think about our perspective.

“Look where you’re going!” My mother’s words echo in my memory," Ava said. "I had my share of scraped knees as a child, often because I did not look where I was going."

Do you hear those motherly words echoing in your thoughts too? I (Dawn) can't tell you how many times I heard them, usually after I took a tumble. (One of my nicknames in high school was "Klutz-illa." But I digress.)

Ava continues . . .

“Look where you’re going” is good advice. Whether hiking through a forest or setting budget goals to manage my finances, it helps to be aware of where I am and where I want to be.

But sometimes I can be too focused on my goals.

When I’m hurting, I tend to concentrate on the pain or focus on what I think might bring relief.

I’m often like the invalid described in John’s gospel. This man sat in a crowd by a pool believed to have restorative powers. The disabled and infirm anxiously waited for the water to stir. Tradition held that when an angel moved the water, the first person in the pool would receive miraculous healing.

I can only imagine the intense focus of each person’s gaze. Watching for even the smallest ripple, waiting . . . yearning . . . desperate for relief.

But in order to watch the water, they needed to keep their gaze lowered. They were limited by their physical condition, but also limited by a perspective that always had them looking down.

Until Jesus entered the picture.

“Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6) A simple question with an obvious answer. But this invalid was so focused on what he thought was the solution that he failed to recognize the One who was the real solution. Instead of answering the question, he provided excuses for why he could not be healed.

“Sir, I have no one to help me . . . .” (John 5:7)

Looking up is not just a physical posture, it’s a spiritual posture as well.

How often do we focus on our problems or pursue wrong choices for relief? We compound our suffering because we do not look up. We fail to include Jesus in the equation.

Looking up may not immediately change our physical condition. It may not ever change our circumstances. But it will help us maintain an eternal perspective.

I’ve found that looking up requires me to:

1. Be intentional about what I allow to consume my thoughts.

The apostle Paul counseled: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8 NIV).

2. Choose to trust God regardless of my circumstances.

Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NIV).

3. Repeat these two steps again and again!

Practice may not make perfect, but it helps us establish God-honoring habits. Paul wrote, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9 NIV).

“Look where you’re going!” was, indeed, good advice. I just need to remember the eternal component and view my circumstances with my heavenly Father’s perspective. For that, I really do need to keep looking up!

On what do you focus during your trials? Are you concentrated on what you think are the answers to your problems? Look up! Whether or not Jesus changes your physical situation, He will uphold you through it and give you an eternal perspective.

Ava Pennington’s newest book, Daily Reflections on the Names of God: A Devotional, is endorsed by Kay Arthur, founder of Precept Ministries. She has also written numerous magazine articles and is a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers (AWSA) and the Christian Authors Network (CAN). Ava also teaches a weekly Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) class. She is a passionate speaker who engages audiences with relevant, enjoyable presentations. Visit her at AvaWrites.com.

Graphic adapted, Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Tuesday
Jan142014

Adjusting to Change

Cherri Williamson is a missionary friend who, like most missionaries, has a life shaped by adjustments to change.

“Most of us don’t like change,” Cherri says. “I’ve had to adjust to many changes over the 37 years we served in Indonesia.”

Thirty seven years! When I went on two short-term mission trips, I got just a taste of what Cherri means by that word “adjustment,” so I know her insights are good for all of us ... anywhere!

Cherri continues …

Moving from modern conveniences to a thatched-roof house with dirt floors, a cement “squatty potty,” and no running water or electricity; and from conversing freely to speaking like a two-year-old as I studied two new languages—you’d think I’d now be a change pro! Wrong!

We recently moved to Singapore with its modern conveniences, malls, even Starbucks! But even this change hasn’t been easy.

The Lord reminds me of a few things when I go through these changes, and these reminders might help you too.

1. Don’t look back -“Forgetting what is behind and looking forward to what lies ahead” (Phil. 3:13). When looking at the past with rose-tinted glasses, present circumstances seem lacking. Focusing on the past makes acceptance of new situations difficult. Keep your eyes on the Lord today! 

2. But look back! Do consider how the Lord helped you through past difficulties.  “Remember how the Lord ... led you all the way” (Deuteronomy 8:2). Faithful yesterday, He will be just as faithful today. Remembering “the wonders He has done” (1 Chronicles 16:12) gives confidence He’ll help in every new change. 

3. Accept differences as just “differences,” not inferior or “dumb.” Having just moved to Singapore, I’m adjusting to its myriad regulations. I found myself grumbling, “This is so dumb!” But God is helping me see some benefits of these myriad regulations! (An example: I don’t have to worry about stepping on chewing gum. It’s illegal here!)

4. Ask God to change your perspective. Our first two years in the Indonesian jungle (with no stores or electricity), I complained I was “sick of eating nothing but rice, canned meat and leaves.” I’ll never forget my husband Barrie’s gentle rebuke: “Honey, maybe if you if you referred to them as ‘greens’ instead of ‘leaves,’ it would help you have a better attitude.” He was right.

5. Find your contentment and joy in Christ—not things, people or circumstances.  Missing malls, Mexican food and corporate worship at home have sometimes been sources of discontentment; but being away from family still is the hardest adjustment. I’m learning the “secret of being content whatever the circumstances” (Philippians 4:11).

When I mutter, “If only ... THEN I would be happy,” my contentment is not in Christ. 

I CAN learn contentment “...through Him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13) and I CAN choose true joy! “You will ... grant me the joy of Your presence” (Ps. 16:11b NLT). 

6. Focus on the Unchanging: Christ’s presence, His Word, and His love and grace. He’s the same “yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8), He will never leave you (Hebrews 13:5b), His grace is always “sufficient” (2 Corinthians 12:9), and He will always be faithful (2 Timothy 2:13). 

7. Ask God to make you aware of over-looked blessings. God opened my eyes to see the blessing of living in a country free of religious strife, where I can go out alone in safety, and where great medical help is available. 

8. Delight in things He wants to teach you. In the jungle, God taught me how to can foods and make bread, yogurt, and tortillas, and create jam from unfamiliar tropical fruits. I’d never have learned those things in “civilization.” 

God allows changes into our lives to grow our faith, shake us from complacency and remind us how much we need Him.  

Paul said, “We were under great pressure ... but this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God” (2 Corinthians 1:8, 9). An old hymn says, “In every change, He faithful will remain.” Count on it!

Which of these eight “Adjustment Tips” would most help you in your current changing or difficult situation?

Cherri Williamson is a missionary with New Tribes Mission (NTM) and served in Indonesia with her husband Barrie in church planting and Bible translation for 37 years, now in Singapore. She is the mother of two—both missionaries in Indonesia—and the grandmother of seven "perfect" grandchildren.

Image in text adapted, graphic courtesy of artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.